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COLEMAN v. DAHL (11/25/52)

November 25, 1952

COLEMAN, APPELLANT,
v.
DAHL



Appeals, Nos. 142 and 143, March T., 1952, from judgment of Court of Common Pleas of Somerset County, 1950, Continuance Docket Nos. 802 and 833, in cases of Helen Ross Coleman, widow of Richard J. Coleman, deceased, and as Trustee ad Litem, v. Adolph Dahl, Admr., Estate of George M. Pletcher, deceased, etc., and the Baltmore & Ohio Railroad Company, and Bessie Stauffer, widow of Ernest Stauffer, deceased, and as Trustee ad Litem v. Same. Judgments reversed; reargument refused December 11, 1952.

COUNSEL

Harold R. Schmidt, with him Simon K. Uhl, Uhl & Uhl and Rose, Eichenaur & Rose, for appellants.

Clarence L. Shaver, with him Margiotti & Casey and Shaver & Heckman, for appellee.

Before Stern, Stearne, Jones, Bell, Chidsey and Musmanno, JJ.

Author: Jones

[ 371 Pa. Page 640]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE JONES

These two appeals, which were argued together, grow out of separate actions for the death of the plaintiffs' respective husbands in a collision between an automobile in which they were passengers and a locomotive of the defendant railroad company. The personal representative of the deceased owner and driver of the automobile was also joined as a defendant. By agreement

[ 371 Pa. Page 641]

    of counsel and with the approval of the court, the cases were tried together, the trials resulting in separate money verdicts for the plaintiffs against both defendants. On motions of the defendant railroad company for a new trial and for judgments n.o.v., the learned court below denied the motion for new trial but entered judgments n.o.v. Similar motions by the defendant administrator were refused and judgments against him on the verdicts were ordered to be entered upon payment of the verdict fees. The defendant administrator has not appealed and all that is presently before us for review is the entry of the judgments n.o.v. for the railroad company. The evidence is necessarily to be viewed in the light most favorable to the jury's verdicts for the plaintiffs.

At 4:15 A.M., E.S.T., on July 28, 1949, when an automobile containing George M. Pletcher, the owner and driver, and the plaintiffs' decedents, Richard J. Coleman and Ernest Stauffer, was proceeding northwardly on State Highway Route 53 between Somerset and Stoystown, the automobile suddenly ran into a locomotive and tender of the defendant railroad which was then standing motionless on a grade crossing over the highway. It was dark and foggy at the time of the accident and, due to the position of the locomotive athwart the highway, any rays from its headlight were beamed away from the highway substantially at right angles to the highway's longitudinal direction. All three occupants of the automobile were killed in the collision. As the jury's finding that Pletcher, the driver of the automobile, was guilty of negligence is unchallenged, none of the evidence pertaining to that question need be recited here.

The basic matter with which we are now concerned is whether there is sufficient testimony to support the jury's verdicts against the railroad company. That

[ 371 Pa. Page 642]

    inquiry resolves itself, in the circumstances, into two questions, viz., (1) was the defendant railroad company prima facie negligent in permitting its locomotive and tender to stand motionless blocking the highway and (2) is there evidence from which a court can say, as a matter of law, that the railroad company's ...


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